On my way back from Yosemite, I wanted to make a stop somewhere along the way. Perfectly situated just south of the park was Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. I had every intention of driving through Kings Canyon and then south into Sequoia but after looking more closely at the map, the only road open through Kings Canyon went directly east on a windy road and then just ended. It would have added a couple hours to my drive and with 4 more hours to go after leaving the park, I decided to skip it.
I entered through Kings Canyon and then almost immediately turned right to head through Sequoia National Forest into the park. The drive through the national forest was beautiful and the height of the drop off was deceiving since the road was surrounded by trees. It felt like driving through the backroads of Maine. But as both Yosemite and Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks are on the Sierra Nevada mountain range, this shouldn’t be surprising.
Since I had Scout in the car, and it was pretty warm outside, I wasn’t planning on doing any hikes. I made a few stops along the way though for photo ops.
It’s very clear when you have gotten to the center of the park. At first I wasn’t sure which trees were the Giant Sequoias until I turned a corner and it was quite obvious which ones were which. The sequoias are definitely giant; I’ve never actually seen a tree this large. Driving past these trees, I had a memory of when I was a little kid and remembered my obsession with Giant Sequoia trees. Seems like an odd fascination for a 10-year old who had never been to California, and I don’t exactly remember where it came from, but something about these trees seemed so magical and impossible as a kid. So driving through this park was like fulfilling a childhood dream. I had a moment where I was just in awe of them.
Heading towards Tunnel Log, I came upon a giant sequoia that had fallen over. All its roots were still intact and the 8 people climbing on top helped give me perspective on its enormity. Tunnel Log is another fallen tree with a tunnel built in it (what?!) so you can drive through. Somewhat akin to the Pioneer Cabin tunnel tree up north (RIP), except it’s not currently standing. Well, actually neither is the other one anymore.
Beyond that, unless you are going to hike it’s mostly just a nice drive. As you get to the other side of the park and start heading downhill, there are miles of switchbacks, which makes for a slower drive. It was on this stretch of road that you leave the New England feel of the woods and enter what feels more like Southern California; the landscape was drier and a lot less green.
I exited through the south gate of the park (not much of a visitor center) and drove back towards the main highway around this giant, beautiful lake (later found it is called Lake Kaweah).
While I’m glad I made a relatively quick stop through the park, there was so much more to see that I didn’t by just driving through. I would have gotten a better sense of the park if I had been able to do a short hike or trail walk and I imagine that there are better views of the trees. Overall though, it was a nice way to end my long weekend trip up north.